I am a Typical Teenager – Life in My Eye’s
By Lauren Friedlieb – 14 years old
When I started High school my life changed before my eyes. I’m currently 14 years old and I’m going through a rough stage of my life. For the past 7 months I have been a different person. My parent’s sweet little daughter is turning to rebel against everyone. My parents realized that I was changing. I started smoking cigarettes, skipping school, and getting referrals and detentions for disrespecting teachers at school. My grades dropped tremendously, constant lying, stealing from my own parents, and I started to not care about my family. I was turning into a troubled teen without myself caring. My parent’s knew they had to do something, no matter what it took. They started looking around for different boarding schools for troubled teens. At that moment I didn’t care. In my mind I thought that nobody would be able to change me and it was a waste of time.
When they came across an Academy in Due West, South Carolina named Carolina Springs Academy; my father called the facility and asked for an information packet. When we received the packet, the center appeared to be very helpful and seemed as if sending me to this academy would be for my best interest. My parents set up an appointment for us to go see the center. My parents and I drove 12 hours, from Maryland to South Carolina. When we arrived at the academy I was stunned at the difference between what was presented in the information packet and what was sitting in front of my eyes. In the packet the center looked as if it was in good condition and suitable to live-in.
Off the road in the middle of nowhere sat a little house on a gravel road. The house looked to be run-down and very old, which was the office. Towards the back of the house sat two fairly small housing units, which I later found out was where the teens slept. The fact that boys and girls were both combined at this center worried my parents. Usually in boarding schools several miles separate them, but in this case they were separated by several yards. In most cases the girls and boys have separate facilities completely away from each other.
When the director of the program came to greet us she wasn’t very friendly, she informed us that she was severely busy and that two girls who are currently enrolled in the academy will be touring us around. She also informed us that we could ask these girls any questions and they would honestly answer them. The first thing that I asked was-do you like this place, they both answered with a strong “NO,” of course I thought-how could they like a place that wasn’t their own home and a place where their family wasn’t. As we began to walk outside to go to the housing of the girls, the two girls informed me of the rules.
Rules are rules I thought, but these rules are more than just rules, (I know my parents wouldn’t agree with me that these rules were way too strict, after all that was my point of attending there). The girls and boys were not allowed to make eye contact with each other. The girls are forced to put their head down and look at the ground, and for no reason were they to talk to each other. The consequence of not obeying these two rules would result in being dropped to level 1. When girls pass male authority (meaning men working at the program) they were to say, “excuse me,” and nothing else.
The two girls who were walking around with us mentioned that girls were no longer allowed to talk to male staff workers because of an incident that happened, when my parents and I asked what happen she told us simply “I’m not allowed to talk about it.” This gave me some suspicions. If the girls did not say, “excuse me” they were reported to the leader of the group and then there would be consequences or a drop of level. Some consequences that these teens were faced up against were extremely outrageous. One of the girls that was with my parents and I, told us a time when she and one of her friends were made to do 1,800 worksheets for talking when they were not permitted to.
As we got closer to the girls’ housing I was rethinking all the decisions in my past. Basically I put myself in this situation. Before we reached the house there were 3 small trailers that looked to only hold about 10 girls. The girls informed us that these were for different reasons; one was for the teens to go to when working on studying or doing something that needs quiet time. Another one was for discipline, if a child was out of control and not listening and so fourth, they were to sit there with someone watching them, until they cool off and aren’t as destructive. The last little trailer was for consequences that deal with writing assignments, and other such things.
When we reached the girls’ cabin one of the girls opened the door to the house for the girls. When I stepped in, I was startled by how many girls where in this fairly small one level house;Bunk beds were pushed up against each other with no room to move. There were 3 bathrooms with nearly 100 girls. The girls were sitting on the floor wrapped up in blankets and staring at my parents and I. The two girls that were with us told us that it was silent time, which means no one can talk, either they can read or write. If they talked a consequence would be sentenced.
While my parents were asking questions to the two girls that were touring us, I couldn’t stop staring at these innocent girls sitting on the floor staring at me and whispering that this place was horrible. They kept whispering how I should change, and take their word that the center was nothing like home, it was horrible.
A couple of the girls use hand gestures by putting their fingers across their neck and moving them across, which means that they are trying to warn me and tell me that I don’t want to come there. One girl in particular made my eyes fill with tears, and my heart to hurt. My father and I both saw her, she was trying to tell us something, and her eye’s told a million stories. You could see the pain and the hurt inside her, along with all the other girls. They looked to be extremely skinny and were pale and unhealthy looking.
The girls’ stares haunt me everyday. They would smile at me and then make a face saying, “Please help me, please”. While standing there looking around I saw bins under their bed filled with belongings, I asked why they have all their belongings thrown in a bin. One girl responded with an answer that shocked me. “In level 1 and 2 you are only allowed to have two little bins and you have to live out of them until you get into level 3 when you get 2 bigger bins that hold a little more.” One girl said that she wasn’t feeling well and asked to lie down and take medicine. I asked one of the two girls what happens when a girl gets sick, is there a place to take them to see a doctor, or is there any way that a girl can stay in bed for the day and not be forced to do their daily activities)? She couldn’t answer me with a straight answer. She did tell my parents and I that she had been sick for the past 6 weeks and she just went to see a doctor that day. She said the doctor told her he didn’t know what was wrong with her. It was somewhat strange.
When my parents and I were leaving all the girls just stared at us with the hurt and pain in their eyes. I felt as if I was walking out on these girls and not even helping them. The adult that was in charge of the girls’ cabin didn’t come to us and ask us anything she just was sitting there staring at the girls. When we got outside of the house and started to walk away, that’s when the adult in charge asked us if we had any questions. She saw the girls telling me about the place with their bodies and with their whispering. My parents and I both knew that she had the feeling that we knew these girls were going through something. The motions these girls were showing my family and I were not normal. These girls need us to help. They need us to get social services involved. I’m concerned about teens in trouble going into programs that say they will “improve your child’s future.” If that were the case, then there would not be any parents suing programs such as these and ex-students voicing loudly of the abuse.
On the ride home from the academy my parents and myself were thinking of everything we saw. The faces of the girls, the consequences, everything that was being said was something that wasn’t really being done. These innocent, painful, faces were silently crying out for help and they are embedded in our minds.
The day after we got home my parents and I researched information and called people about the program and found out; not only do these girls and boys look like they have been through a lot; they HAVE been through a lot. From my research, reading testimonies, speaking with former students, it is painfully true; physical abuse, to mentally brainwashing, to sexual abuse. May God save these children and may their parents realize the pain they are enduring. I am not saying that we teens are perfect; we are not, however to put your child in that environment can only destroy them more in my opinion. I know it would me, and I am a teenager a typical teenager. Thank God my parents trusted their gut instincts! I am sure you may think that the visit scared me straight, but I want you to realize there are innocent teens in there that their parents may not know what is going on. Did it scare me, yes, and it also showed me my parents cared enough to research it. The fear of being sent there can’t compare to the fear in the kids’ eyes. That is why I felt the need to write this. This is for the teens that are silenced.
If I could help save one family’s nightmare or one teen from this academy, I know that I have accomplished my goal!